How Some Students Responded to Allegations of Abuse by Sogyal Rinpoche

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As you can imagine, responses to the letter containing allegations of abuse in Rigpa varied widely.  Some expressed anger that the behavior of their teacher could ever be questioned and faulted the 8 signers.  Others felt relieved this information had finally come to light.  And still others said they’re were slowly progressing through the five classic stages of grief as defined by Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Following is just a small sampling of the many affirmative responses to the letter.  The intention behind sharing them is to help others feel less alone, especially if you feel conflicted or in pain.  Hopefully, these words will also help arouse compassion for the genuine suffering that has occurred.
Many felt and continue to feel deep gratitude for all they have received from Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa, as expressed in this response.

“I too have been moving through grief and groundlessness. My heart goes out to our dharma friends who have bravely and painfully come forward, and I thank you. I find the weight and volume of your assertions simply too hard to ignore, and I find myself erring profoundly in any belief that such behaviour on the part of the teacher could be enlightened. It is extremely distressing and disappointing. If the behaviour is in fact ‘crazy wisdom’, then teacher, please forgive me, I am not cut out for this path.

I have put my two cents worth in here as I want to acknowledge and thank those who have come forward, some of whom I know, some not. I will now be interested to hear what the response is at various formal and informal levels from fellow students, the organisation and from the teacher.

Thank you, teacher, for the priceless gifts you have given me. And thank you to all those in the organisation who have brought benefit. If these allegations are true then I am mystified as to how they can be reconciled as enlightened or beneficial actions. If they are not true, then what motivates a sum total of individuals such as yourselves to act/communicate to such lengths? Are you disaffected students, Chinese spies? The scale of your assertions does not add up for me to see them as entirely false, or to interpret the asserted actions as ‘crazy wisdom’. I have to concord with your open letter to the DM: Lama, please explain! These assertions raise the utmost level of seriousness on so many levels, and healing is required.”

And so many felt relieved.

“I feel very relieved that it is all out in the open now. My heart and body feel much lighter and for the first time I feel hopeful that my body might actually recover at last. It’s been holding silent witness to so much for so long… I also feel very deeply for everyone who is coming to learn about this perhaps for the first time and is very likely in shock, denial, grief, etc. Holding everyone strongly that this can be processed healthily, sanely and in a safe manner.”

“It’s refreshing to hear people express what’s in their hearts, and, I feel a tremendous sense of relief following the sangha care letter, that things are in the open – at least among DzM students. I feel lighter and so refreshed by the possibility of dialogue, sharing care and support and most importantly freedom for all to examine and to express our understanding and insights.”

Others felt affirmed.

“Thank you so much for speaking your truth! I’m so deeply grateful for it. I saw bits and pieces of this happening from the periphery and felt crazy inside about whether I was seeing abuse or why I wasn’t pure enough to accept the wrathful Terton’s crazy wisdom methods. I’ve been wrestling with this for ten years. Stepping back, missing my Sangha, stepping back in, feeling shocked… Repeat.

And mostly I am so sorry that you had to endure all of this in such an up close way. It breaks my heart that my treasured Sangha endured all of this so that I could receive the teachings. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your honesty, courage and intelligence. The letter is outstanding and very clear.

Please know that your time and pain was not wasted. I learned so much from you, and continue to do so.”

And still others felt supported.

“The support material cited in The Letter was so very helpful. When I left Rigpa 3 years ago in outrage and anger, there was no support whatsoever – just a gaping hole where once there was companionship, community, faith, belief and purpose. If I had had that material at the time, it would have been so much easier.

As it turned out, after a year of intense psychotherapy, I managed to regain some sort of equilibrium, but was still distressed that nearly everyone I had considered to be friends at Rigpa had deserted me. Now I can only hope their eyes are opened a bit and that I can provide support for those who have the inclination and guts to leave.

Heartfelt thanks to the signatories of The Letter and whoever it is/was who kindly put me on the list to receive it. It would be helpful to know who you are, in case I have the opportunity to speak with you in person. Your courage is extraordinary.”

Whether you believe the teacher’s behavior is enlightened activity or abuse, these words show that good-hearted, deeply devoted people are struggling and in pain. While it might be easy to categorize them as troublemakers, malcontents, or eccentrics, hopefully their words show otherwise.  Their statements also illustrate that the issues at hand impact many more than a small number of students.
Note:  Comments used with the authors’ permission.
We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

More personal and private support for current and previous students of Rigpa can be found in the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite. Include a link to your Facebook profile or the email address you use on Facebook.

23 Replies to “How Some Students Responded to Allegations of Abuse by Sogyal Rinpoche”

  1. I was one of the first german Students of sogyal, one very close around him, very devoted, but left him 20 years ago because all what is said abut abuse and false dzogchen teachings is surely true. As well as I was shocked about the naivity of his disciples. I learned a lot about what not to do in the spiritual path, about the false guru vision. but it took me about 10 years to freely call him what he is: not a precious jewel, but a dirty asshole.

    1. Ulrich, I’m sorry you had this experience, but I’m glad you were able to learn from it. However, I don’t think SR Dzogchen teachings are false in the least. Perhaps, they weren’t well formulated as yet in those early years. He still had not received some of his most important Dzogchen teachers from his own masters at that point. But they are definitely authentic.

  2. Hello Ulrich
    I think I know what you mean. Could you say something more about the false Dzogchen teachings, please ? I am interested to exchange about that point.

    1. Adamo, I have concerns about abuse, but I don’t believe SR is a fraud. I received many authentic Dzogchen teachings from SR, not as early as Ulrich, but starting in the 1980’s. His teachings are not false. They only became more and more authentic as he continued to study Dzogchen with his own masters.

    2. No point in looking into this any further, why? Because SR was guided by the greatest masters of our time, for example, Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche.
      If you know the lineage and know the amount of time SR spent with NKR, and know that NKR and his the masters, authorised SR to teach, then you would know this is not an issue!

  3. Dear all,
    after 10 years in R, now i’ve left. I had already doubts for quite some time. I always disliked how SL did students down in front of the assembled company that they didn’t knew what it was all about, feeling completely wrong.
    I don’t find this way of interaction helpful at all. I complained about that several times, but as an answer i always received killer arguments like: “you don’t have to like it” or “that’s just the way he’s working with his students”.
    So what is there left to say? Also i could never see SL as a Buddha.
    I’ve already read many things on the internet and talked to some people who’ve left R before. A Lama even advised me to better stay away from SL.
    Despite everything i was still struggling, should i stay or leave? It’s been a long process.
    “The letter” finally helped me to leave. It opened my eyes. I’m so endlessly greatful for that!
    I wish deeply, that even more students may have the courage to stand up and tell their stories. The whole thing has to come to an end!
    To me, R is a cult, a cash machine, everything costs money, and SL is a huge narcist, who’s harming so many people.
    I’m deeply saddened and shattered about what SL is doing to his students!
    Love to everybody!

    1. Dear Deep Blue Tara,
      I’m sorry you’ve been in conflict for so long. I completely understand how demoralized you felt, and how nevertheless, it hasn’t been easy to leave. Now that you’ve made the decision, the healing process may still take some time but as you said you can feel relief and look forward. Wishing you the best.

  4. I would like to know Moreno about the reference in the article on SL as Crazy Wisdom gTertön – is he even regarded or telling his students he a gTértön now?

    1. Blue Pancake – SR is an incarnation of the Terton Sogyal, that’s been authenticated by several lineage holders, including Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok.

      1. But Serenity, can you please give a precise example of a source other than Rigpa that has recognised SR as the reincarnation of Terton Sogyal? For example, when and where did the Khenpo you’ve mentioned make this statement? I have read elsewhere recently that others have found it problematic to pin down any authorised statements of recognition. Even Orgyen Tobgyal, who – in spite of how many of us feel about his contribution to this issue – it has to be acknowledged, is extremely learned when it comes to the biographies of great lamas such as the Khyentses, doesn’t sight any authoritative source for his positive feelings about the legitimacy of SR. That is, his feelings are based on SR attending Jamyang Khyentse Lodro, that’s it.
        For what it’s worth, back in the late seventies Situ Rinpoche told me that while the previous Sogyal was indeed a Terton and a great lama, he personally wasn’t convinced that this Sogyal was his reincarnation.

        1. I was personally at the teaching at Lerab Ling when Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, the other incarnation of Terton Sogyal, said he’s certain that Sogyal Rinpoche is the other incarnation of Terton Sogyal. That’s not something he was forced to say even if it was at Lerab Ling.
          Situ Rinpoche may have had his doubts in the late seventies, but it’s also possible he changed his mind, isn’t it?
          Given all the great masters that have supported Sogyal Rinpoche over the years, from HHDL to Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche to Dodrupchen Rinpoche and many others, I have not doubt of his authenticity as an incarnation nor any doubt of the authenticity of his teachings.
          I personally feel the rumors and stories trying to question his authenticity take us all off track from the main point which is the allegations of abuse.

          1. Maybe KJP just tried to be polite? Fore sure he got something out of his visit in LL, and due to the situation he was in, a great monastery in PRC with about 6000 nuns and monks, he could need any support… So this is how it’s done in politics and in the tibetan feudalistic-spiritulistic system for centurys, and it’s well known…

            1. As you may know, the masters in this lineage do not say things to please others like that. For these great masters, to say something like that couldn’t be worse as they would be endorsing a fraud which would tarnish the lineage. So you can be confident when they say SR is an incarnation of Terton Sogyal, then you can take their word for it.
              Just knowing this lineage would give you confidence in the above.

          2. Anything’s possible, right? But I’ve seen so enough masters authentic Sogyal Rinpoche as a reincarnation that it’s not a question for me.

  5. Serenity, yes i can understand that you don’t wish for your belief in SR as a recognised tulku to be contested. And i respect that. At the same time, i think it’s understandable that people are asking this question, in light of the current concerns. Given that in the Tibetan tradition tulkus are usually formally recognised by the head of a lineage, or another highly esteemed lama with close connections to the young tulku, following auspicious dreams and other indications that we are all familiar with, such as having the child pick out his old mala from a selection, it’s natural that people seek confirmation of SR’s tulku status in accordance with these formal, accepted criteria. For whatever reason, it seems that SR’s trajectory was perhaps less conventional.

    1. Dear Matilda7,
      It’s not about my clinging to my personal belief, believe me. I’m only trying to offer clarity for others. If Sogyal Rinpoche wasn’t an authentic incarnation, I would be ready to acknowledge that. The ways you mention for recognizing a tulku, in my knowledge, are ones applied to high lamas like HHDL or talks associated with a monastery but not necessarily to every tulku . I’ve seen several masters authenticate Sogyal Rinpoche, so it’s quite clear to me.

  6. Serenity, all the namtars i’ve ever read usually refer to a formal process of tulku recognition, as i’ve mentioned above. Your understanding that this only occurs with “high lamas like HHDL or talks associated with a monastery” may be part of the R myth-making, a R world view of Tibetan Buddhism that people have spoken about in this blog, that slots into its framework, its ‘raison d’etre’. So if you are concerned about “rumours and stories” please consider this.

    1. Not true….just watch the spirit of tibet. Here its says that Trulshik Rinpoche had dreams and visions about who the reincarnation of DKR was.
      So, JKCL was said to be the masters of masters, and he said SR was an incarnation of his own master, Terton Sogyal.

      1. Maureen “Not true….just watch the spirit of tibet. Here its says that Trulshik Rinpoche had dreams and visions about who the reincarnation of DKR was.” Exactly, dreams are an important sign. Not sure how that relates to the question of SR’s provenance as a reincarnation of Terton Sogyal.
        “So, JKCL was said to be the masters of masters, and he said SR was an incarnation of his own master, Terton Sogyal.” As far as i can ascertain, people have raised this matter as there seems to be a lack of proof on this point. Even Orgyen Tobgyal, considered to be something of an authority on Jamyang Chokyi Lodro
        has expressed it as ” He is said to be an incarnation of Tertön Sogyal, which makes him the incarnation of a great lama.”
        However, as i stated above, it is not my intention to question people’s faith in SR. I raised the matter as Serenity was concerned about rumours and stories questioning his incarnation. And i just feel that it’s a legitimate question. The problem seems to be that usually such important matters as recognitions would be recorded in writing – yet no-one can quote directly from any of JCL’s writings on this point. I wonder whether the new book will shed any light.

  7. Dear “group of eight”. I back your point of view very much.
    Today,11.8 2017, is in german newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung” a article to read, written bei Michaela Haas. The article is very clear about Sogyal Lakars abusive behaviour.
    It reveals some details that has not been made public yet this way, as far as I know.
    I guess that the author has been in close communication with you in order to get such details.
    I ask since such a source should been beyond any doubt, as I experience that any little tiny exaggeration could be used to proof everything stated as false, wrong and so on.
    Can you say something with regards to the articleby Michela Haas in german “SZ”.
    Yours Adamo

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